Back-to-School Budgeting Hacks

Yellow backpack with school supplies

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Ready to conquer the classroom without draining your wallet? I’m going to share my favorite back-to-school budgeting hacks with you. As the leaves start to turn and the school bells begin to ring, it’s time to gear up for the new academic year while keeping your finances in check. Let’s dive into some of my favorite tips that will help you breeze through the back-to-school season without breaking the bank.

1. Create Lists

Before you hit the stores, make sure you have a list (not just for what you need, but also what you already have in the house). Take this opportunity to go through the kids’ clothes and see what they can continue to wear for the next few months while it is warm and what is too small that may need to be kept at home for play clothes. On your list, put what they need for clothes but also think of school supplies. Do you have three ring binders in the house? Leftover notebooks that never got used? Pencils that are good as well as a box of crayons you found? Don’t buy more of what you already have. Make it easy on yourself and your budget by buying what you need.

2. Shop Second Hand

Thrift stores, FB marketplace, friends/family. You’ll be amazed at the quality finds you can find for a fraction of the price. From gently-used clothing to backpacks and even art supplies, thrift shops are a goldmine for back-to-school essentials that won’t drain your wallet. There could be a family facebook group in your area for exchanging clothes that are good but just too small for their kids. Getting bookbags from kids who have grown out of theirs is a great way to get a good one for your kiddo. There is no shame in thrifting or getting hand-me-downs from your friends or family.

3. Set a Spending Limit

Set a budget and stick to it like glue. Decide how much you’re willing to spend on each category – clothes, supplies, gadgets – and then explore your options within those limits. This not only keeps you accountable but also challenges you to find the best deals and make every dollar count. When you are making your limits, make sure they are realistic and something you can stick with at the store. Think about what you have spent in the past on clothes or supplies. Was it too much or the right amount? Use that as a guide for you to decide on your limits. Need help creating your budget (not just for school but in general)? Sign up for my free foundations course!

4. Swap and Share

Got a bunch of friends with school-age kids? Host a back-to-school swap party! Bring your gently-used items that your kiddos have outgrown and exchange them for items that fit the bill this year. It’s an eco-friendly and budget-friendly way to refresh those wardrobes and supply closets. Are you in a mothers group? This could be a great activity to suggest when the school year is closing to get prepared for the next year. You might find some treasures that your kids will love.

5. Cash in on Cashback and Coupons

If you’ve been saving some money/points on your cashback apps, now is the time to use them. Add more? Also, check out stores that offer coupons in their apps. This is a great way to save money in the store. Some stores will offer great coupons and deals on their apps. Just make sure to check them out before you go shopping. Stores are wanting you to spend right now because seasons are changing and they want to switch inventory. Take advantage of this time. My favorite app to use for scanning receipts is Fetch because it is so easy to use. For online shopping, make sure you use Rakuten!

6. Plan Those Meals

Let’s not forget the lunchbox! Planning nutritious and budget-friendly meals not only keeps your kids healthy but also saves you from splurging on pricey school lunches. Get creative with leftovers and prep meals in advance to avoid those last-minute cafeteria emergencies. Check out the deals at your grocery stores for foods that your kids like to take in their lunch box. Look at your bulk stores also because you may find buying the pouches of 8 applesauce at the grocery store to be more expensive than going to a bulk store and buying a pack of 18. They will last longer which is always helpful when thinking about your time at the grocery store. If you need to buy from the cafeteria, look at the menu ahead of time with your child to see what they will eat so you are not just throwing money in the trash because they don’t want the pasta surprise.

7. DIY Supplies

School supply shopping is fun because of all of the cool binders, pins, lunch boxes, pen cases and so much more but do you really need it? Instead of spending $5 extra dollars on a notebook that has a cool design, can you add a design to a plain notebook at home? Print or cut a picture that your child likes and then put it in the sleeve of the binder. Allow them to paint or color on the front. If you are crafty, you might have washi tape at home they can use to decorate their pencil case or their notebooks. Have them get creative to make their supplies their own. No one else will have one like it and they can show their creativity.

8. Shop Sales Strategically

Back-to-school sales are everywhere. Keep an eye on flyers, newsletters, and online deals to make sure you snag those discounts for things you actually need. Does your state have a ‘No Sales Tax” Weekend? Take advantage of that especially if you are having to buy for multiple kids or scientific calculators and computers for school. It really will add up when you are buying some big ticket items or a lot of materials for school. Remember some stores will actually give you the price of items that you find lower at another store. Use that to your advantage.

9. Rethink the Extracurriculars

Extracurricular activities are fantastic for personal growth, but they can add up. Look for community centers or local clubs that offer free or low-cost classes. It’s a win-win: your kids get to explore new interests, and your wallet stays happy. Think about limiting the amount of extracurricular activities. Taking your kids to five different activities during the week not only adds up with the fee but also the gas it takes to get them to the activity. You know your kids and what they really enjoy. Focus on what really brings them joy and that they love.

10. Teach Financial Literacy

Finally, turn back-to-school budgeting into an educational opportunity. Involve your kids in the process, explain the importance of budgeting, and let them help make decisions. It’s a fantastic way to instill financial responsibility from a young age. Kids love to be involved in what you are planning and how you decide to buy. It is okay to say, ’We don’t have money for that now.” They can hear that and you can discuss how you can all save to be able to buy the item next time. Let them know that you don’t just go to the store and they give you what you want but that you plan for what is needed.

Remember it’s about smart spending and making your money work for you. Need more help (or want something to listen to while you shop for school)? Listen to my 5 part private podcast series, Making Money Moves!

Cheers to a fantastic academic year ahead!

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Alli Williams

I’m the CEO of FinanciALLI Focused LLC and our mission is to you get rid of financial anxiety, build wealth & reach your big money goals. You can pay off debt, save, and spend at the same time (I’ve done it, you can too). 


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